Winter Trout Spey

By David and Becky Hulsey

Handling the freezing temperatures of dead winter in the high country of the Appalachians can be challenging to say the least. The cold here can cut into your soul like a dagger to the heart. Humidity combined with twenty-degree breezes can make the fly fisher yearn for spring evenings like nothing else. Everything slows down in winter including the trout’s metabolism and my desire to rock hop like grasshopper in July. So together the trout and I kind of reach an agreement, at least for a few months, in that they’ll bite a few times if I go into chill mode and spoon feed them.

My love for swinging flies for trout is pretty much inescapable and luckily a very effective winter tactic for grumpy browns and rainbows. The rhythmic swing of everything from tiny soft hackles to large intruders makes it easy for the trout to time the attack, but also for the angler to get the flies right in the fish’s face. Trout in the winter usually don’t want to move very far to intercept a morsel of food if it looks like it might be able to get away from them.

Skagit spey lines with a sink tip from five to ten feet and a short 4 foot piece of 2x will usually get the job done. The tip’s sink rate and length is critical for getting the fly or flies to the correct depth. Normally I use tips that sink from 1-7 inches per second depending on the water flow. Skagit lines are massive and can handle larger streamers with some weight built in. I fish a four-weight trout spey rod with my Skagit set up.

Scandi lines for trout spey have a long front taper and will deliver a double soft hackle rig like a laser beam. Normally I’ll use a regular nine-foot 3x fluorocarbon leader to a tippet ring or a triple surgeons knot and a couple of softies to fish maybe around 2-3 feet deep. Trout holding at this level are usually looking for emergers and a 2 or 3 weight trout spey rod with a Scandi line is the perfect tool to put those flies right in the strike zone.

About the only hatches you’ll have in the winter are Blue Winged Olives, Black Caddis and some Midges, so the Skagit line gets a lot more of river time when it’s cold. Being able to cast a long line, without hardly any back cast room, with the micro spey rod lets you fish normally inaccessible spots that can be dangerous or risky for a dunking. Trout Spey gear can accomplish this and more! Besides being an effective fishing tool it’s just plain fun!

If you’d like to get started in the spey game or are just curious about it we give a Half-Day Beginners Trout Spey Class that can get the ball rolling. The class is given on the water of course, swinging flies over fish. There’s always a chance for a grab or two! We also supply all the gear with quality spey rods and reels, both Skagit and Scandi lines and flies included for you to try out. Trout Spey Wade or Float Trips are available on the Toccoa River our home water near Blue Ridge Georgia. We have Gift Certificates available for that special person on the last-minute holiday shopping list. Just give us a call and we’ll get those emailed right out to you!

Give David Hulsey a call at (770) 639-4001 to book a class or a guided trout trip. See his website at